The shooting of a Sikh man outside his home in Kent, Wash., is being investigated as a potential hate crime the second shooting believed to be motivated by hate in two weeks.
Deep Rai, 39, was shot in his driveway Friday night by an unknown masked assailant who allegedly told the victim, “Go back to your own country.” The gunman approached Rai, who was working on his car, and, after a brief altercation, shot him in the arm. Rai was released from the hospital over the weekend. The shooter remains at large.
Rai is an American citizen originally from India.
“The shot resulted in non life-threatening injuries,” said Ken Thomas, Kent police chief, at a news conference. “However, we are treating this as a very serious incident.”
“To think that this could happen in our community was very surprising and extremely disappointing,” said Thomas, who called the attack “the first incident of this magnitude” that he knew of in the area.
The FBI has joined the investigation, saying in a statement over the weekend, “The FBI remains committed to investigating crimes that are potentially hate-motivated and we continue to work with all our community partners in the Seattle area.”
Rai’s family was in disbelief after the shooting and described the victim as having no known enemies.
“It’s still a shock for him, and it’s still a shock for us also for the whole community,” Harji Singh, Rai’s cousin, said to KIRO 7, adding, “they’re thinking, ‘no, there’s no way this guy can have any enemy at all.'”
The incident comes on the heels of a Kansas shooting just two weeks ago, in which a white shooter shouted, “Get out of my country” before opening fire at two Indian men and one white man who tried to intervene.
Adam Purinton, 51, killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old engineer from India, because he looked “Iranian.” Purinton opened fire on Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, 32, who is also Indian, at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kan., on February 22.Madasani and Ian Grillot, a 24-year-old white male who was shot by Purinton as he tried to intervene, both survived the attack and were hospitalized with injuries.
Public outcry, including that of Ian Grillot, the man who tried to stop the shooter, caused President Trump to finally address the incident being investigated as a hate crime.
The FBI is investigating the incident as a hate crime. President Donald Trump responded to the Kansas shooting about a week after it occurred, during his address to Congress, calling the United States “a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a group that tracks hate crimes and groups, reported that hate groups were on the rise in 2016 for the second consecutive year.
“The most dramatic growth was the near-tripling of anti-Muslim hate groups from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year,” the SPLC reported.
Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC, called 2016 “an unprecedented year for hate.”
“The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists,” Potok said. “In Steve Bannon, these extremists think they finally have an ally who has the president’s ear.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer called it “absurd” to link a surge in hate and hate crimes to the president’s inflammatory rhetoric.
Community Response: ‘All they see is a person with a turban’
Members of the community responded to the attack over the weekend.
The Sikh Coalition, an anti-hate organization established in response to a surge in anti-Sikh crimes after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, called hate crime prevention “a matter of life or death.”
“While we appreciate the efforts of state and local officials to respond to attacks like this, we need our national leaders to make hate crime prevention a top priority,” said Sikh Coalition Interim Program Manager Rajdeep Singh in a statement. “Tone matters in our political discourse, because this a matter of life or death for millions of Americans who are worried about losing loved ones to hate.”
Jasmit Singh, a Seattle-area leader of the Sikh community, called it “critical” to investigate the shooting as a hate crime “because without our government agencies recognizing hatred for what it is, we can’t combat the problem.”
Amarjit Singh, a resident of Kent, said the victim could have been anyone.
“All they see is a person with a turban,” he said. “So it could easily have been me.”
Satwinder Kaur, a Sikh community leader, called it “very disheartening” that someone in the area was the victim of a hate crime.
“Everybody who is part of this community needs to be vigilant,” she said.
Sikhs worshipping in a town near Kent over the weekend “expressed hurt and disbelief at the lack of understanding and ignorance,” the Times of India reported.
“This is equally my country as it is your country,” said 39-year-old Gurjot Singh, an Iraq war veteran who served in the Marine Corps. “It doesn’t anger me. It hurts me.”
Sandeep Singh, 24, said the violence against followers of Sikh goes against their values.
“Sikhism teaches about equality and peace,” said Singh, adding, “This is our country. This is everyone’s country.”